WE ARE NO MORE mathematically nimble than anyone else in keeping count of how many baseball managers and players are coming or going these warm days. But we did pause when Eddie Stanky emerged from the mists of Mobile, Ala., to be named the Texas Rangers' new pilot. We had heard reports - and indeed noted them on our op-ed page a few weeks ago - that this one-time scrapper (in his Brooklyn Dodger days he would carry dirt in his hands to throw in the faces of opposing infielders as he ran the bases) had a conversion. The Brat, it was said, was now a father-figure to the college boys of South Alabama University who came to learn baseball from Stanky the educator; not Stanky the fanatic.
In the time we needed to figure out why a grown and apparently rational man would suddenly leave his home, the family and university in exchange for living in airports, hotels and dugouts and trying to outwit the likes of Billy Martin, Stanky was apparently trying to figure it out, too. He needed only a day. Hit by a case of homesickness, Stanky took the quick, sure cure and went back to his wife, children and aging father.
From our own particular dugout, we cheer. At age 60, Stanky was only too human in thinking that he had one last kick of the spiked heels within him. But the quiet enjoyments of family life, suddenly treasured, stirred the heart more than the prospects of the noisy thrills of leading the Rangers to whatever glories await them.
So let Stanky's name go in the records books again, this time with three astericks. First, he has what is probably the only perfect record (over the shortest stretch) in big-league history: one victory, no losses, in one day; second, he becomes one of a select number of managers ever to leave the game by his won choice; and, third, and most important, within that exclusive club, he stepped up by stepping down. He elevated himself in the eyes of all those who have had the good fortune to discover at one point or another the comforts and rewards of the family.